SALLY SORTS IT: Insurer refuses to pay back money for cancelled trip

My wife and I booked a holiday to Cyprus for us and our daughter as a gift to thank her for her continuing help. 

Unfortunately, my wife fell ill prior to our departure and we had to cancel. I claimed on our Aviva travel insurance, which is linked to our Barclays bank account, and was paid in full for our portion of the trip.

My grown-up daughter, who lives independently at another address, had her travel insurance as an add-on to her home policy with Direct Line. 

But the firm refused to refund her share — around £1,000 — on the basis that she had not contributed to the cost. I feel this is grossly unfair.

J. D., East Sussex.

Out of pocket: A family was forced to cancel their holiday due to illness but were denied a full refund because they do not all live at the same address

Sally Hamilton replies: It certainly seemed harsh to me that the generosity you showed in footing the bill for a holiday for your daughter was not reflected in the behaviour of her insurer, Direct Line.

Your daughter had been battling depression following her divorce from an abusive husband, but was starting to make a good recovery while holding down a job, raising her child and supporting you and your wife. 

You wanted to celebrate this by inviting her on a holiday to coincide with your wife’s 80th birthday.

There was disappointment all round when the Cyprus trip had to be cancelled. Happily, though, you were able to recoup the loss of your share of the bill from your insurer.

But both you and I found it hard to fathom why Direct Line declined your daughter’s claim. You took the case to the Financial Ombudsman, but the complaint was not upheld.

Direct Line refused to refund the daughter's share of the holiday cost — around £1,000 — because it was paid for her as a gift

Direct Line refused to refund the daughter’s share of the holiday cost — around £1,000 — because it was paid for her as a gift

Despite my request to reconsider, Direct Line stuck to its guns. A spokesman says: ‘The claim was declined on the grounds [the daughter] did not pay for the holiday, a point clearly outlined in our terms and conditions. 

‘The individual that suffered a financial loss had a policy with another insurer.’

I was disappointed to pass this on to you especially as you told me later the terrible news that your wife passed away recently.

Your experience is not an isolated one. Not long after dealing with this case, I read a letter from another concerned parent about a daughter facing a vexed insurance claim.

She had booked a March trip to the Aspinall Foundation’s Port Lympne wildlife park in Kent for herself, her husband and their three-year-old son, paying £1,177 for a lodge that sleeps up to five.

Since the charge was the same regardless of the number of occupants, she invited her parents to join them for free.

But just before travelling, her son fell ill with norovirus. Since no refund or rebooking is permitted on a last-minute cancellation, the daughter claimed on the travel policy linked to her Nationwide current account, which is provided by UK Insurance Ltd.

After much correspondence and long delays (leading to a £50 compensation) the insurer agreed to pay — but only £606, which was three-fifths of the claim, minus the £100 excess. 

UK Insurance (the main underwriter behind Direct Line, as it happens) ignored the fact the price was for the property and stated it would only pay for those insured on the Nationwide policy. I felt this was blatantly unfair.

I asked it to reconsider. It repeated the same line, that the policy only covers the costs of insured people and not any portion related to uninsured guests, ‘even if the trip is paid for as a gift’.

However, I am pleased to say Nationwide stepped in and, in recognition of the circumstances, made an ex-gratia payment of £471, so that the claim has now been met in full. That’s the holiday spirit!

So where does this leave people who want to treat their family to a holiday? Direct Line’s spokesman advises: ‘They should discuss options for a guest extension with their insurer, so they are financially protected for that person’s proportion of the overall cost.’

Eharmony fixed me a date with a debt collector

Last year, I joined the dating site eharmony on a special offer for a year’s membership. I rarely used it, then forgot about it and later cancelled the payment method.

When the year ended, eharmony contacted me to demand the full fee of £286, but it used the email address I’d set up specifically for the service. By chance, I looked at it a few weeks ago and realised my careless mistake.

I explained the situation and suggested that I pay for the two months that had passed since the offer ended. 

Eharmony declined and said the debt had been passed to a debt collection agency.

M. P., Southend-on-Sea.

Dating disaster: Eharmony passed this reader's debt to a collection agency after they forgot to cancel their membership following a special offer period

Dating disaster: Eharmony passed this reader’s debt to a collection agency after they forgot to cancel their membership following a special offer period

Sally Hamilton replies: I thought your suggestion was a pragmatic solution. Compromises are key to a successful romantic relationship, and should be for business arrangements, too.

Eharmony agreed to waive the debt, and says you won’t be hearing from the debt collection agency.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.